Niall Ferguson. Love this guy!
— Where do you see the climate change debate going in Europe?
— Well, I think it’s not just in Europe, but in the world that this debate in happening, and I think it's important that it happens. I live in Northern California. As we speak, there is a massive wildfire raging [? placename] that will soon send, if it hasn't already, smoke through the air towards where I live with our two small boys. If climate change isn't affecting you yet, the way it's affecting us — I can't remember when we last had rain — it’s gonna. So, let’s not pretend there isn't an issue here. And in some parts of the world, the issue is really grave. And I fully expect there to be a deterioration that will affect some parts of Asia a great deal more severely than we are being affected. Rising water levels seem highly likely. Now, there is a science of climate change, which is extremely difficult to do, and there is an economics of climate change, which involves estimating probabilities and trying to attach appropriate insurance premia. [...] Now, let’s have a reasoned debate about what this insurance premium should be, what steps we should take to mitigate these risks... You go first, Greta Thunberg. And Greta Thunberg now leads a kind of youthful rebellion, says "you politicians are destroying our future", "the world is about to end", "this is not just a disaster, it’s a crime", the accusatory finger pointed, and the world’s media, by and large, echoes that message uncritically. Bjorn Lomborg, another Scandinavian, comes along and says, you know what, speaking as an economist, I can see ways that we can do this well, and I can see ways that we can do this badly. If we do it badly, and we actually cause economic growth to stop or even go negative, we are not gonna have resources available for effective mitigation. There is a way in which you can actually get this wrong. Now what do the other side say then? Do they say, that’s interesting, can we look at your numbers? No, no, no. That’s not what they say; they say, you are a denier, you are an evil person, and you should be boycotted, ostracized, and shamed. [...] So we have a problem here, which is there isn’t a real debate going on, there is virtue signalling, and reputation destruction, and a great deal of heat, and very little light. I am weary of hearing sermons about this problem. I am weary of people saying, it is a terrible thing that we are not going to meet our targets, it is a terrible-terrible crime, and here are the guilty people. What we need to discuss — and here I think Bjorn Lomborg is absolutely right — is what the optimal combination of mitigation steps is. [...] If all we do in the west is to cause our own economies to flatline, because we are so determined to be virtuous, and nothing happens to change the trajectory in Asia, then we’ve achieved nothing. Maybe some people will feel morally better, maybe they will feel that they have done a saintly thing, but the planet still gonna burn. [...] So where I get depressed is when I have to listen to speeches — whether it is Greta Thunberg or Al Gore, frankly, that are highly moralistic in nature, but don’t address the question, what do we do about China, what do we do about India, how do we actually get CO2 emissions worldwide to be reduced. Ain’t gonna be the Paris accord that achieves that. I wonder how can we get back to rational discussion of this problem. Because if we don’t, we aren’t gonna solve the problem of climate change; all we gonna do is self-harm, all we gonna do is cause the west to fall faster behind China than it is already falling.